I recently met an amazing woman, Ellie Walker, whose background is a science degree. Ellie and her partner Peter Buteux have been involved in making fruit wines for the last 25 years.
Ellie has done many different things over the years and is one of the most creative people I have met. Her and her partner Peter live on a beautiful property in Holgate on the Central Coast of NSW in Australia, about an hours drive from Sydney. This post is the story of how Ellie and Peter got started in their wine making venture.
I met Ellie by chance after seeing a notice she had posted on a local library notice board, offering free gallery space to artists. Well you can imagine my surprise when I rang her and she said she had only had a couple of responses to her notice and so far no one had turned up! Consequently I went to see her and we have now organized to have 3 exhibitions in her exhibition space.
A week or so after meeting with Ellie, I rang her back and said, ‘would you be open to me doing an interview for my blog?’ and she was – so here we are….
Kadira: “So Ellie, would you mind introducing your self and telling me a bit about your background?”
Ellie: “….we started off making wines when we were first married, we had a little organic orchard and began making wine from the fruit produced. ”
Kadira: “So have you always used organic fruits and things?”
Ellie: “Well as much as we can. Anything we grow is always organic. We can’t always guarantee what we buy in, but sometimes I manage to source some organic fruits, but not all the time.”
Kadira: “So what started you making wine in the first place?”
Ellie: “We bought this 1/4 acre block with the second house that we owned and the previous owners had removed all the grass and planted fruit trees. So it was full of fruit trees and underneath they had chickens grazing and fertilizing it. There were plums and apricots, and figs and oranges and lemons, every possible fruit you could imagine.
At that time we had a young family and didn’t have a lot of money. We wanted to use all the produce that we had. We’d come out of the university mindset of making do with what you have and at the time some other university friends gave us these magazines – Grass Roots Magazine ‘
Kadira: ‘I know that magazine, I used to read it myself!’
Ellie: ‘You know that magazine?’
Kadira: ‘ Yeah yeah!’
Ellie: ‘Well that was a real turn around for us then, for we found a direction I guess as young adults we found a direction of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to bring our children up. So I used to read all the magazines, and in the magazines there was fruit wine making, and I had all this…. making jams and chutneys – and putting it out on boxes and giving it away, just as my parents did when we were kids.
So we struck on wine making to use up all this fruit. There was a little wooden cabin in the back yard and we started making wine in there. Our first little winery, which was not much more than a garden shed. It was our own miniature winery and after that we moved out into the country to near Wollombi.
We were very much involved in the earth gardening and building and we built a mud brick house out there.’
Kadira:’Oh wow – did you? That’s a lot of work!’
Ellie: ‘Yeah – it took us about 4 years to build the house. I think we moved about 150 tons of mud . We were on solar power only and had no mains water so the water supply was very limited. We couldn’t develop the winery as we wanted to because of this.’
Kadira: ‘So how did you end up coming to the Central Coast and starting up your winery here?’
Ellie: ‘ Well by the time our children were approaching high school age we wanted more opportunity for them and a possibility for them to attend university if they wanted to, so we moved to the Central Coast.’
To be continued …. find out how long it took Ellie and Peter to establish their winery in Holgate and what else they are doing.
If you would like to visit Fires Creek Winery and see Ellie and Peter’s wonderful place for yourselves,
in the beautiful Matcham/Holgate Valley.
192 Wattle Tree Rd, Holgate. NSW
Cellardoor Wine Tastings :
Wednesday to Sunday.
10am- 5pm DST
10am- 4pm EST
Checkout Ellie’s website Fires Creek Winery – which she built herself, no less – I tell you she really is a woman of many talents!